What is a Man?

I already have an article called Masculinity in the Church. In that article, I discussed some of the problems Mormon culture occasionally has defining Manhood. I felt it necessary to write another article briefly giving my own definition of what I think it means to be a man.

Masculinity is not the sum of “masculine” interests. Masculinity is not football, cars, and weightlifting. To define masculinity this way is misdirection. It is a sleight-of-hand trick to make your card disappear. What it means to be a “real man” is missing from this definition.

The worldly definition of masculinity does not hold up under scrutiny. It has a very laissez-faire attitude toward adult men’s misdeeds, and even praises their negative behavior, supporting double standards that are unjust, untrue, and harmful for everyone. Men who are promiscuous and unfaithful; who pursue power so they can dominate over women, children, and other men; who do anything they can to get rich so they can spend money as selfishly and as irresponsibly as they can. These kinds of men are often held up as role models for young men when there is nothing manly about them.


The Pursuit of Virtue

The root of the word virtue is the Latin word virtus, meaning valor, strength, merit, and moral protection. The word virtus comes from vir, which means man. Masculinity is meant to be synonymous with the pursuit of virtue. You can see how this is a complete inverse of the world’s definition of masculinity. A real man is not one who lauds about how effectively and frequently he indulges his vices. A real man is one who pursues virtues like knowledge, love, truth, and justice. He is diametrically opposed to the worldly definition of manhood in his thoughts and actions.

Why shouldn’t it be considered masculine for a man to care for children, be an advocate for women’s rights, or treat their life partners as equals? Is the man who gets a calling as a nursery helper instead of a priesthood leadership less masculine? Is the man who spends his evening braiding his daughter’s hair instead of watching a football game less masculine? On the contrary, I’d say those are powerful examples of manhood.

It hails back to Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle developed his own code of ethics which basically concludes that a thing is morally right which promotes the most virtue. Since Aristotle preceded Christ, I can’t help but wonder if the early apostles sometimes taught from a foundation of Aristotelian ethics. To quote the Apostle Paul, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7). The pursuit of charity and love is masculine. Real men pursue virtue and all the good things in the world.

This is how I’ve defined manhood for myself, but what do you think? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below or on the Postmodern Mormon Facebook page.


Tyler Clark

Postmodern Mormon

3 thoughts on “What is a Man?

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  1. Another great scripture with reference to positive masculinity is D&C 121:19-22, 34-46. Compassion and gentleness are the hallmarks of Christlike service and leadership. Being firm and decisive are also important traits but doing so without the temperance of charity and humility will, as you suggested, tend toward dominance and exploitation with time.

    Liked by 1 person

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